Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Big Sleep (1946)

Humphrey Bogart is Philip Marlowe, a private detective hired by General Sternwood (a retired and ailing old man) to investigate blackmail, but the case quickly becomes far more involved.  Soon enough, people start being killed and Marlowe starts to think that the General's daughters Vivian and Carmen may be involved.  The plot is certainly very complicated and it really has to be seen twice (I watched it once with subtitles because everyone speaks so fast), and you really can't stop concentrating for a moment.  It sounds like hard work, but it's great because if it slowed down, any over explanation would just seem clunky and would really kill the film.

At the heart of the film is a brilliant performance from Bogart, it's like he never stops talking, but as everything he says is pure gold, you really don't want him to stop.  His Marlowe is quick, witty, sharp and passionate.  He absolutely dominates every scene he's in, except those he shares with Lauren Bacall who plays Vivian, the General's elder daughter.  The on-screen chemistry between these two is just wonderful; their verbal sparring always left me with a smile on my face, it is a joy to watch.  Surrounding them is a solid support cast, perhaps most notably John Ridgely as Eddie Mars, but there is no doubt that this is Bogey's film.

I think this can be classed as a film noir, but most of the sets are brightly lit, and I think it only rains a couple of times, two things that for me go hand in hand with the genre (though I haven't seen many).  It's hard to appreciate the probable other nice touches in the film because you get so engrossed in the story, impressed at the razor sharp script, and above all, captivated by Bogart's performance, even after a second viewing.